Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido expelled from Colombia

Juan Guaido says he was expelled hours after he arrived. Bogota says he arrived ‘irregularly’.

Self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela and opposition leader Juan Guaido
Juan Guaido, recognised in 2019 by more than 50 Western countries and their allies as Venezuela's de facto leader, had hoped to hold meetings in Colombia with officials attending a conference about Venezuela and its political crisis [File: Ariana Cubillos/AP]

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido says he was expelled from Colombia hours after he arrived in Bogota to try to meet participants of an international conference to discuss his country’s political crisis.

In a video posted on Twitter, Guaido said he entered Colombia on Monday trying to escape Venezuelan government persecution but that now he also felt he was being persecuted by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Colombia.

“The persecution of the dictatorship, unfortunately, spread to Colombia today,” Guaido said on the video from inside an airplane. He added that he was on a commercial flight to the United States and he would say more on Wednesday.

Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late on Monday in a press release that Guaido was “irregularly” in the country so immigration authorities escorted him to the international airport to take a plane bound for the US.

Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva earlier said Guaido’s visit could face obstacles because “he entered [the country] in an inappropriate way, and in Colombia, we respect the law.”

Guaido announced his arrival earlier on Monday, ahead of the conference organised by Colombian President Gustavo Petro aimed at restarting talks to end Venezuela’s protracted political impasse.

Petro is acting as a mediator between Venezuela’s government and the opposition as he tries to unfreeze negotiations between the two sides that began in Mexico City in 2021 but reached an impasse in November.

International conference

Officials from about 20 countries, including the US, are expected to attend the conference on Tuesday. Neither Guaido nor Maduro are officially invited to attend.

“I have just arrived in Colombia, in the same way as millions of Venezuelans before me – on foot,” Guaido said in a statement, referring to the Venezuelans who have fled their country’s economic crisis.

“I hope the summit can guarantee that the Maduro regime will return to the negotiation table in Mexico and that a credible timeline can be agreed upon for free and fair elections to be held as a solution for the conflict,” he said.

Guaido, recognised in 2019 by more than 50 Western countries and their allies as Venezuela’s de facto leader, had hoped to hold meetings with officials attending the conference.

He had also called for a protest to be held on Bogota’s Plaza de Bolivar square, a short walk from the palace where the conference will be held.

He has opposed the lifting of sanctions against Venezuela proposed by the Colombian president.

Venezuela’s divided opposition voted to disband its symbolic “interim government” in January and replaced Guaido as the head of a parallel congress made up of opposition lawmakers.

Under Petro’s predecessor, right-wing president Ivan Duque, Colombia had been Guaido’s main regional backer and had broken diplomatic ties with Maduro’s government.

The left-wing Petro reversed this decision, taking up instead a leading role in a process aimed at ending Venezuela’s political crisis through negotiations.

Source: News Agencies